I meant to do this at the end of the year, but being  home with family I found myself too busy to blog!

I was thinking over 2008 and what a gift it was.  So many people ended 2008 saying that it couldn’t be over soon enough.  And while the economy and the election left bad tastes in my mouth, I have to say that 2008 was a fantastic year.  There are too many blessings to count, but I thought I’d make a list of highlights.

I thought about just putting “Rome” and leaving it at that, but I figured that was cheating!

  1.  Hearing Durufle’s Ubi Caritas sung by the Kings College Choir… in their chapel in Cambridge.  Reflecting on this is actually what gave me the idea to do this.  Some memories are seemingly always present in your consciousness (like my #2).  Others come back to you when you least expect it and you suddenly remember them with such joy and vividness that it is hard to believe you once forgot about it.  On that rainy English February day, as we sat in that imperial medieval chapel , listening to the empyreal tones of one of the greatest choirs in the Western world, the centuries disapeared into inconsequence and an aura of worship surrounded us, the humble servants of the Most High God.  It was one of those unbelievable experiences in which we attempt to savor every instance, knowing it soon will pass and seem inconceivable.   Following a week in Ireland and preceding four months in the Eternal City, it was sandwiched between so many other experiences it is almost lost…
    But it’s not.          
  2. Mass in a “small” Roman church with 250 young adults… oh, and the Pope too.  You can go here, to my Rome blog, to get the full story.  All I will say is that I never dreamed I would be at Mass with the Holy Father in such an intimate setting.  I have to thank my friend, Sefanit, who went to the Centro (after she already had her own ticket!) to see if there were extra tickets for our whole group.  As a result, our whole group was able to pray and worship with our dearest Papa!  To witness his energy when he addressed us — putting down his prepared homily to look us in the eye!– to witness my friend Katy recieve Holy Communion from his hand, to witness the great love the youth have for him and that he returns with such joy… It was definitely a fifth Sunday of Lent I’ll never forget!
  3.  Processing in the Papal Palm Sunday procession.  If the 5th Sunday of Lent was so incredible, the next Sunday, Palm Sunday, didn’t disapoint!  Again, you can go here for the full story.   Thanks to the wonderful people at the Centro San Lorenzo (the community honored the week before), our group was given the privilege of processing in the Papal Palm Sunday procession.  Gathering in the hallway underneath the Papal apartments, walking out into the square with palms so large you wondered if you’d take flight with the right gust of wind, processing down the aisle in the crowd knowing that you were preceding the Vicar of Christ… the emotions were running wild.  Sitting up on the altar during Mass, looking out at the hundreds of thousands of faithful gathered in the heart of the Church… one couldn’t help but remember that the faithful with palms on Sunday were the same people who were unfaithful on Friday, chanting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”  While I joyfully sat within fifty yards of the Holy Father, I sorrowfully reflected on my unworthiness as a sinner to receive such constant graces!
  4. Meeting Mary Ann Glendon, US Ambassador to the Holy See.  I had to include this, partly because it’s such a ridiculous story of how Joan is such a papist… but a shy papist!  I’ve admired Ms Glendon for quite some time for her work, showing what a woman can do both in academia and in defense of the Church.  (Harvard Law professor, Vatican representative to the 1995 Beijing Conference, first female President of the Roman Catholic Church’s official Pontifical Academy of Social Science, etc)  When I first saw her at a large American Mass in Rome, I was thrilled to at least catch a glimpse of a hero.  When I found myself attending the same Sunday Mass as she and her daughters every week (where we made up 98% of the congregation), the thrill wasn’t there anymore.  But if there was a tendency to forget who was sitting across the aisle from me, the police escort that waited outside the church was a reminder of the role she served for my country.  I think my friends and family found it humorous that I would never go over to meet her (there were literally only two or three other people at Mass with us, depending on the week), but I always felt that she deserved that time to be a mother, not an amabassador.  Finally, my last Sunday evening in Rome, my friend Joseph introduced me to her and her family.  I could go home with no regrets. : )  (except maybe for the fact that I didn’t talk to George Weigel after Mass the week he lectored.  I’m telling you, the congregation was small… but powerful!)
  5. Family time.  When I returned home from the Eternal City, the entire family was together for a wonderful week.  With everyone spread across the eastern half of the United States, any time together is priceless.  Forget famous choirs, Roman pontiffs, or US Ambassadors… when it comes down to it, besides Himself, God gave me the greatest gift when he gave me my family.  I’m unworthy of their love and support.  My faithful, functional, hilariously fun, loving family.  2008 found us together… what more could a girl ask for?